The history of buildings
2018

Secure buildings – Prisons

Secure buildings are buildings that are difficult to either get into or get out of. Prisons definitely fall into the category of difficult to get out of. For centuries man has tried to successfully keep away from normal people the most dangerous people in society.

The most common way to do this has been to build secure premises that are installed with a variety of methods that stop people from being able to leave them. This has led to a constant people with the criminal world of thwarting attempted efforts of prisoners to escape from these jails.

Alcatraz Prison in the middles of San Francisco Bay

Some of the prisons have been so notorious that books have been written and films have been made about them. Some have eventually been closed and then reopened as tourist sites, as visitors have arrived to view the accommodation that has been home to some of the world’s most dangerous people.

One such prison was Alcatraz that no longer holds prisoners today but is opened to tourist visits.  Situated on an Island in the centre of San Francisco Bay, the facility was famed for never having suffered from a successful escape.

Originally built as a military prison in 1933 it was first used for civilian prisoners in 1934. It was used to house some of the country’s most dangerous criminals as the island was surrounded by fast flowing cold currents of water that made it virtually impossible to swim across. The punishment area was known as Hell hole where the prisoners were treated brutally and the prison closed in 1964.

The Tower of London was often used as a holding prison before prisoners were taken to be executed. As well as holding the crown jewels the tower was also used to both torture and incarcerate prisoners. Some of its most famous inmates were Guy Fawkes, Queen Elizabeth I, Anne Boleyn, Sir Walter Raleigh, Rudolph Hess and the Kray Twins.

The prison had longevity operating for nine centuries and had such a fearsome reputation that no one wanted to be sent to the Tower of London. As soon as corporal punished finished in the United Kingdom its days were numbered and it closed in 1952.

Inmates in the yard at Bang Kwang Prison

One of the most secure prisons there has ever been is the Maze Prison that is found in Belfast in Northern Ireland. It was at its busiest period during the sectarian troubles between Irelands Protestants and Roman Catholics and was used to house paramilitary prisoners.

It was opened in 1971 and by 1975 if housed 1981 prisoners of which 95% were Roman Catholics and the rest were Protestants. There were constant troubles inside the prison as the detainees claimed as political prisoners they should be treated differently from common criminals. At the end of the troubles the prion was closed as it was seen as being a major part of the troubles. There are now plans to reopen it as part of the peace process.

One of the toughest prison in the world is Bang Kwang prison in Thailand. Situated on the Chao Phraya River just 10 miles to the west of Bangkok the Prison handles many prisoners who are on death row waiting execution. It is also home to foreign prisoners who have been arrested in the country for illegal drug trafficking offences.

Only prisoners who are serving at least a 33 year sentence are sent Bang Kwang and for their first 3 years of their sentence they have to wear leg chains. There are currently 700 prisoners on death row and they have to wear the chains throughout their sentence. The jail has been in operation since 1933 and the inmates are only entitled to one free meal a day.

No prison has held more future presidents of a country, than the one on Robben Island, 7 kilometeres off the coast at Cape Town in South Africa. It was built at the end of the 18th century to house political prisoners, and from 1961 the South African government used it to house both criminals and anti-apartheid activists.

These prisoners included Jacob Zuma and Kgalema Motlanthe who would later preside over South Africa. Its most famous inmate however, was Nelson Mandela who spent 18 years of his 27 year sentence on the Island, until being released to lead his country out of the apartheid era.

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